Anime Spotlight: Fruits Basket Season 1

Fruits Basket Season 1 is a reboot of the Fruits Basket anime series from 2001. This reboot is being overseen by Natsuki Takaya, the author of the manga. The new anime is being produced by TMS/8PAN and is being directed by Yoshihide Ibata. The first season of the reboot aired on Japanese television from April 6-September 21, 2019. As of this writing, both Crunchyroll and FUNimation hold the North American rights for the series.

When comparing the original anime and this series side-by-side, the first few episodes tell the same story with the same storyline intact. However, the two series begin to diverge after this, since the sequencing of some of the events changes between the two tellings. In fact, with the reboot, these changes also diverge from the order of events in the original manga. Considering that the author of the manga is heavily involved with the reboot, I suspect she decided that the story would be stronger by moving some things around. Overall, I think that the change in sequence helps to make the series stronger, especially having the backstory for Hanajima appear this early in the anime adaptation. To me, I think this helped to make Hanajima an even stronger character at this point in the story compared to this same point in either the manga or the original anime adaptation.

When comparing the two series, I have to give the reboot credit for having an overall better tone and feel to it. The original anime isn’t bad for what it is, but the director seemed to try to make it more light-hearted and more of a comedy. The reboot has its humorous moments, to be sure, but the overall tone is more serious and dramatic in nature. In that respect, there are times when the character of Kagura comes across as more “over the top” than she did in the original anime, since the humor involved with her character can sometimes clash with the more serious tone that the reboot is aiming for.

And I also have to give the reboot higher marks in its art style. Again, the art style in the original Fruits Basket anime wasn’t bad for what it was and the feel the director was going for, but I believe that the reboot gives the characters a more “realistic” look to them. Even though there may be more fantastical elements like the Soma clan curse of changing into the zodiac animals and Hanajima’s wave powers, the story is still set in a realistic version of our world. The more “realistic” look for the characters and their surroundings help to cement the fact that this story is taking place in the real world.

I was happy to see that the final episode of Fruits Basket Season 1 starts to bring in the story and story elements from the manga that were never included in the original anime, because it was being produced at a time when the manga was still ongoing. And with the way the final episode of this series ends, it’s making me look forward for Fruits Basket Season 2 and what it will have in store. As of this writing, all we know is that the second season is scheduled to premiere sometime in 2020. Whether it means there will be a one cour break or having to wait almost a whole year for the next part remains to be seen.

Fruits Basket: Episode 25 – “Summer Will Be Here Soon”

At the end of last week’s episode, I stated that it felt like the previous episode would make a good end point for the season. However, when this episode started, it made me realize that there was a loose end that needed to be tied up between Kyo and Kazuma in order to bring that storyline to an end. So in that regard, last week’s episode wasn’t quite as good of a season ender as I had initially thought.

During this episode, we see both Kyo and Yuki starting to make some forward movement in their character progression. I especially liked seeing how Haru played an important role in Yuki’s forward movement. If anyone was going to help Yuki see what needed to be done and Tohru isn’t able to do it, then it was going to be Haru.

Near the end of the episode, we see Shigure calling together most of the Soma clan that we’ve met up to now to have dinner at his house. Shigure himself had some important business to attend to at the main Soma estate, and we see what that is right at the end of the episode. Ritsu doesn’t shoe up, and no one even questions why he isn’t there. Kisa makes it a point to mention that Hiro will be running a little late. Right at the end of the episode, we find out why. His scene introduces us to a new character, although the audience doesn’t learn her name. But you can pick up an important fact about her from what she says to Hiro.

Speaking of new characters, there are also two new characters hinted at during one of the scenes at school, but their faces remain hidden and we don’t learn their names, either.

With the way this episode ends with Tohru’s final comment and the scene with Shigure at the Soma estate, the stage is being set for the next season of the series. After watching this episode, I believe that this was the better spot to end at.

Right at the end of the episode, an announcement revealed that the second season of Fruits Basket will begin airing in 2020. Unfortunately, it didn’t say when in 2020… which means it could be as early as January (a one season break), or as late as October 2020 (which is basically a year away). But I’m really looking forward to the point that the second season begins airing, because it will focus exclusively on content that had never been included in the original Fruits Basket anime.

Fruits Basket: Episode 24 – “Let’s Go Home”

This episode features the section of the story that I was very interested in seeing this reboot adapt. And I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw in this episode.

We get some backstory for Kyo, and we learn about what happened to his mother and the type of relationship she had had with Kyo. This is incredibly important for what happens in the climax of the episode. We also learn that Kazuma, Kyo’s teacher, was more like a father to him. And since Kazuma’s grandfather had been the previous Soma member to have the cat spirit, Kazuma likely has the best understanding of the cat spirit and the person who has it.

This episode finally reveals the secret that Kagura was referring to in the previous episode. It turns out that when the rosary bracelet that Kyo wears around his wrist is taken off, he turns into a completely different form. Through flashbacks, we see Akito and other Somas reacting negatively to it. Well, Kazuma decides to put Tohru to a test, and he takes Kyo’s rosary bracelet off in front of her. Kyo panics and flees after he’s changed into this monstrous form.

What I appreciate in Takaya’s storytelling is that Tohru doesn’t automatically accept this other form. It’s handled much more realistically, with Tohru being shocked and scared by it, and being torn on how to respond. And it’s also realistic that when Tohru makes up her mind to talk to Kyo in this other form, he tries to push her away. Everyone else has reacted negatively to this form, so he sees no reason for Tohru to act differently. In an attempt to try to get her to leave him alone, he pushes her in his monstrous form and actually gives Tohru an injury… which is something he never would intentionally do when he’s his regular self.

Again, Tohru acts realistically right after this. She starts walking away right at first, but after a short bit, realizes that she doesn’t want to lose Kyo. I liked how, instead of the regular closing credits, we get to see the credits in the corner as Kazuma sees the results of the test he gave to Tohru.

But with the way this episode ended, it really felt like it should have been the season ender. But, there was the usual preview screen at the end of the episode, indicating that there is indeed one more episode for this season. It’ll be interesting to see how this remaining episode will end the season and what hook it will have to make the audience want to come back when the second season comes out.

Fruits Basket: Episode 23 – “You Look Well…”

This episode of Fruits Basket opens with Tohru learning that she failed an exam and has to take a makeup. Unfortunately, it was in a subject that Yuki tutored her in, so she’s down about that and the fact that she feels like she can’t keep her promise to her mother to make it through high school if she fails an exam.

But things are compounded when Tohru comes down with a cold. It’s so sweet to see how awkward it is for Kyo when he’s trying to take care of her. But it was also amusing to see Momiji going to fill in for Tohru at work, since she had to call out sick. In all seriousness, though, amidst the awkwardness of Kyo trying to help Tohru, the viewer can also see the relationship between these two characters continuing to evolve.

The Tohru storyline takes up roughly half of the episode. In the second half, the focus shifts to Kyo. Kagura drops by for a visit, and Shigure forces the two of them to go out together to get them out of the house. He also sends Tohru and Yuki out as well. While Kyo and Kagura are out, Kagura drops hints for the audience that Kyo is keeping some kind of a secret from Tohru. There’s even a brief flashback that Kagura has that hints at something, but the audience doesn’t get to see what it is that happened. This is obviously building up to something, but I’m not going to say any more than this. While I already know what’s coming up, I don’t want to provide spoilers for any readers who may not have had any previous familiarity with the Fruits Basket franchise.

Right at the end of the episode, it’s discovered that there’s a visitor at Shigure’s house: Kyo’s teacher. Kyo seeing his teacher happens right at the end of the episode, so the next episode will be building from there. Technically, the audience saw him briefly a little earlier in the episode, but his identity wasn’t revealed until the end of the episode.

From what I’ve read, there should be two more episodes for the first season of the Fruits Basket reboot anime. With what I saw today, I know exactly where they intend to break the season, and this is going to be the perfect point to end the season on. I can’t wait to see how the reboot anime tackles this particular story arc.

Fruits Basket: Episode 22 – “Because I Was Happy”

When I saw how light-hearted last week’s episode was, I knew we were headed for something more serious. It turns out I was right, because this episode is Hana’s backstory, which is actually rather dark. Originally, Hana’s backstory appeared much later in the manga. However, it really makes more sense to have it right here, to directly follow the episode with the Prince Yuki fan club girls going to Hana’s house.

It turns out that Hana was born with special powers, and as a child, didn’t know how to control them. Hana’s “wave power” had been used as a joke up to this point in the series, so it’s refreshing to see there’s actually more to them than comic relief, and to have this fact established earlier on in the series.

Even though Hana tried to keep her powers a secret, kids at her elementary school were bullying her anyway and calling her a witch. When the torment gets really bad one day, she thinks in her head that she wishes her tormentor would die, and then he suddenly collapses. While there’s no proof that Hana’s power caused this to happen, Hana believes in her heart that she was responsible because she had wished for him to die. The bullying continues, but Hana refuses to tell her parents about it because she doesn’t want to bother them. Unlike what we see with some of the Somas and how their families are ashamed or don’t want to deal with their children’s curse, Hana’s parents really care about her. And Hana sees her family as kind people, and that home is somewhere that she feels safe.

At one point, Hana’s younger brother says a prayer, hoping that someone outside of their family will come along and care for Hana as well. Not too long after this, a group of girls bully Hana and try to burn her with a match, but are caught by their teacher. But this ends up being too much for Hana’s parents, so they decide to move. And with her transfer to a new school, Hana meets Tohru and Uo. The rest of the episode sees how they become the friends that they are now. And near the end of this story, we get to see part of a conversation that Kyoko has with Hana. I love seeing how Kyoko had the ability to understand others and have the right words to say at the right time. Tohru also has her own way of reaching people, as we’ve seen countless times in Fruits Basket already.

By the end of this episode, though, I could feel the tears starting to well up. It’s another story in this series that tugs at the heart strings, which is something that Fruits Basket is known for.

I think I have a good feeling about what’s coming next and how this season is going to end. If I’m right, we really won’t be seeing much light-heartedness in the remaining episodes this season. I’m interested in seeing if I’m right on my guess, and to see how this reboot handles the particular storyline from the manga that I’m thinking of.

Fruits Basket: Episode 21 – “I Never Back Down from a Wave Fight”

This episode focuses on Motoko, the president of the Prince Yuki Fan Club, along with her two subordinates. There’s also an emphasis on Hanajima, since the girls are trying to find if she has a weakness, because they see her as the “Demon Queen” that protects Tohru. The girls perceive Tohru as a threat, since she’s so close to Yuki and is constantly violating the rules of their club (never mind that Tohru isn’t a member of said club).

They devise a ridiculous scheme, and asks Hanajima if they can go to her house in order to interview her about waves for an article for the school newspaper. After she says yes, we learn through a conversation with Tohru and Arisa that she sees right through them, but is willing to entertain them, anyway.

One of my favorite things is how, before they actually go to her house, seeing what Motoko and the other two think her house must be like. It’s so over the top and ridiculous, just like those three are as characters. LOL!

But when they get to Hanajima’s house, they discover that it’s normal. While Hanajima is making tea, they try finding something to use as a weakness against her. They find all black clothes, all black makeup, and… a collection of shojo manga. While the manga may be different, and not what they expected, it still wasn’t a weakness.

We are also introduced to Hanajima’s younger brother, a middle schooler named Megumi. I thought it was amusing how he was first introduced into the story (Motoko finds him hiding in a closet while snooping around). He looks like and has a very similar demeanor to Hanajima, although his power isn’t waves… he claims he curses people and can do so by knowing their names. Even though Hanajima warned the girls not to say their names in the house, they do it while snooping through her room. Megumi uses this to his advantage later, and it’s amusing.

But amongst the humor, there’s a very serious moment that takes place. Hanajima makes it clear that she knows Motoko and the other two are jealous of Tohru and want to get her out of the way. But what’s interesting is that it’s not Hanajima who delivers the serious speech in this scene, it’s Megumi. But it had to be this way, so Hanajima could realize something when it comes to her feelings for Tohru. The three main girls from the Prince Yuki Fan Club don’t want to hear this truth, of course, but they deserve it. While they may not be quite as obnoxious as they were in the original Fruits Basket anime, they’re still on the annoying side. As a viewer, there was a bit of a feeling of satisfaction seeing those three get schooled on relationships by a middle schooler.

Overall, this was a more light-hearted episode, with a serious point made near the end of it. But knowing that we’re getting closer to the end of the season, it makes me think we have a more serious story coming. Generally, whether it’s in anime or other animated series, a light-hearted story near the end of a season tends to signify that a much more serious story to end the season is coming. It’s a kind of “calm before the storm,” so to speak. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not I’m right about this or not.

Fruits Basket: Episode 20 – “I Can’t Believe You Picked It Up”

This episode introduces another zodiac member of the Soma family. This time, it’s a young boy named Hiro, and he suddenly shows up and starts antagonizing Tohru. It starts with him kicking off his boot while sitting high up and demanding that she pick it up for him. When she does what he asks, he starts berating her. This confrontation ends with him taking Tohru’s pocketbook (which has a picture of her mother in it). Luckily, Momiji finds Tohru, and he brings Kisa around to talk to Hiro. While Hiro gives the pocketbook back, he continues acting like a jerk toward Tohru.

We later learn through a conversation between Shigure and Hatori why Hiro is acting the way he is. For Hatori, I’m sure it reminds him of what happened with him and Akito. Even though Hiro loves Kisa, another member of the Soma family and not someone from the outside, Akito still lashed out… but this time at Kisa, rather than at Hiro. Hiro’s guilt made him avoid Kisa, and unfortunately, this was right around the time that Kisa started being bullied in school. And Hiro treats Tohru the way he does because he’s jealous over the fact that Tohru is the one who saved Kisa and not him. Since Hiro is only in sixth grade, he’s simply young and doesn’t understand how to deal with his feelings.

But it was nice to see near the end of the episode how Tohru is ultimately about to help Hiro through her words, just like she has with other cursed members of the Soma family. Obviously, Hiro isn’t going to change overnight, but at least Tohru has started a process that can hopefully help Hiro deal with his feelings.

Even though Hiro came across as abrasive and annoying, this was still a good episode. He needed to be the driving force of the episode, and you couldn’t have had the conflicts and character growth that happened here without those character traits.

And I’ve got to say, that Mogeta cartoon that Tohru is watching with Kisa and Yuki is just not very good. Yuki’s reactions to it were pretty hilarious, though.